No, that is not a typo in the title of this blog post. Since January, I have been writing a book and teaching a class on discipleship and disciple-making called Into His Image. (If interested, you can watch recordings of the class here.) The further I go, the more I am beginning to see discipleship as a reframing of our personal stories into the story of King Jesus as opposed to some other approaches to discipleship.
Other Discipleship Approaches
- Behavior Modification — This is the classic legalist approach to discipleship. Here are the rules. Good Christian men and women do this, this, and this. They avoid this, this, and this. It is true that being a disciple of Jesus changes how we behave. The Bible talks about putting to death our old ways of living and putting on Christ. The problem with this approach is that it does not reach the heart. We can behave in the right ways but with the wrong heart (see Matthew 5-7).
- Bible Education — In this approach, we focus strictly on teaching people the stories and theology of the Bible. God’s Word is, after all, a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. If we can just get people filled with God’s Word, the rest will take care of itself. Unfortunately, this approach has not worked. That is not to say that Bible education is not necessary. Yet, people sit under biblical preaching and teaching for years, decades even, and still end up acting like jerks. Judas sat through many of Jesus’ sermons, and still he betrayed Him. As with the behavior modification approach, knowledge itself will not change the heart.
- Worldview Formation — When I began seminary in the early 2000s, “worldview” was one of the key buzzwords at the time. The premise was that everyone has a worldview, a lens through which they look at the world. These lenses are made up of the answers to some of life’s big questions. “What is the nature of reality? What is the nature of humanity? What is the nature of right and wrong?” Different religions and cultures answer these questions differently. The goal of discipleship in this approach is to help people come to understand and embrace a biblical worldview in their minds and hearts. I am not opposed to this approach. I am just beginning to question its effectiveness. First, in my experience, most people do not sit around contemplating their worldview. The questions posed and the answers given are viewed by many as disconnected from reality. Second, sometimes what is being passed off as the Christian worldview, is found to be the white, American, conservative worldview.
We need to show people how to live according to the example of Jesus. We need to teach people about Jesus. However, we need to do both of these in a way that reaches the heart. This is where Re-Storying comes in.
Rather than asking philosophical questions like, “What is the nature of man?” We tend to ask questions that are a lot closer to our hearts. “Who am I? Where am I going in life? What should I be doing?” These kinds of personal identity questions have a lot more hold on our lives than the philosophy questions. This is also where we are susceptible to lies that can have powerful and negative consequences.
As children, we learn who we are from our interactions with people around us. We internalize the perceptions of the adult figures in our lives. “Am I loved or am I despised? What makes me lovable?” These perceptions become our self-identities and the scripts we play in our lives moving forward. They are far more foundational to our thinking about behavior than the worldview questions we start asking in high school, college, or later in life.
Part of the power of the gospel of King Jesus is that He not only restores us but that He restories us well. He gives us an identity that heals or replaces whatever lies we picked up as children. He gives us a Father far greater than any earthly father or mother could hope to be. He says, “Child, you are beloved because you are precious to Me.” He creates and surrounds us with a community of like-minded men and women who are broken but restoried just like us. He also gives us a mission and a purpose. We are to show this same kind of restorying love to others.
Yes, the gospel changes what we believe and how we think. Yes, it changes how we live and act. Yes, it changes our view of the world around us. Yet even before all of that, it changes our story and our perception of who we are. I pray you are able to experience the wonderful peace of finding your identity through King Jesus.